The Courage to Build Empathy and Empathise

May 1, 2019

One of the best things about holidays is they provide a little bit more time to be surrounded by those you love. There's more chances for catch ups. Longer time spent in conversation. And an opportunity to dig deeper into what's going on below the surface of our individual and shared journeys of potential. One particular conversation with my niece over the Easter holiday break really reminded me of this. It highlighted the courage involved in first of all building empathy, and then secondly choosing to empathise.


“You can only understand people if you feel them in yourself.” - John Steinbeck


My niece loves dancing. Sorry, I should have used caps lock because she really LOVES dancing. It's inspiring to watch her commitment and dedication to improving each and every day. She lights up when she's talking about, participating in or really importantly sharing her passion through being a student teacher within the dance studio she's a part of. I love seeing this aspect of an athlete or performers journey. The decision to step out of their comfort zone and care deeply enough to give back and pass on their passion to others.


"I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it." - Maya Angelou


Teaching is such a vulnerable journey though. It's an incredible privilege, but also very challenging. You may be passionate about what you're sharing, but that doesn't remove or eliminate the feelings of exposure throughout the facilitation process. Throw in the complexity of others watching on while you're instructing and that's a lot for an adult to navigate, let alone a child. As my niece was describing what she's learnt through this experience she said something really powerful. Turning to the family members in the room who are/were teachers she remarked, 'I don't know how you do it".


“The only way to change someone’s mind is to connect with them from the heart.” - Rasheed Ogunlaru


But she does, she's courageously showing up each week and making a difference in those students lives with her empowering teaching style. I chose to dig a little deeper in our conversation, asking if this empathy she's building has transferred into other areas of her life. Straight away she shared how it's made her interact with casual teachers at her school differently. There's now an understanding as to what they're going through. It's amazing the ripples created by experiential learning. If we can stay curious, out of judgement, and courageously build empathy and empathise, we're able to more effectively as individuals and groups contribute while moving ourselves and others forward.


“Empathy is connection; it’s a ladder out of the shame hole”  – Brené Brown


Thank you to all of you who are also courageously building empathy and empathising within your spheres of influence. Those ripples help remind ourselves and others that the comfort zone stretching we are doing is necessary, valuable and to be celebrated. We're all in this together. We just need to keep remembering that as we navigate all the complexity life and learning throws at us!


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